André Leon Talley became an icon by never losing faith in the glory of fashion

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In 1994, Hilton Als wrote a profile of Talley for the New Yorker, headlined “The Only One.” It chronicles the working life of Talley and details his origin story. But it also recounts an incident during a luncheon that he hosts at Cafe Flore in Paris. After eating, the guests gather for a photograph. There’s much laughing and joking and one of the guests refers to Talley, her host, using the n-word. The manner in which she says the word suggests that she uses it to titillate — like a moth flying daringly close to a flame. Everyone laughs. Talley laughs, too. But as Als writes, “He shuttered his eyes, his grin grew larger, his back went rigid, as he saw his belief in the durability of glamour and allure shatter before him in a million glistening bits. Talley attempted to pick those pieces up. He sighed, then stood, and said, ‘Come on children, let’s see something.”

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